A sold-out crowd gathered at the Orpheum last night for the climate advocacy group 350.org’s “Do the Math” national tour. Founder Bill McKibben, and The Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein explained their new strategy to combat fossil fuel companies: Simple math.
One, the world can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide. Two, this would allow us to stay below two degrees Celsius of global warming - but anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on Earth. Three, this is a problem, because fossil fuel corporations have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their reserves.The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a group that assesses climate change risk, estimates this is five times the amount we can release to maintain two degrees of warming.
Before the show, McKibben and Klein answered a few questions from journalist Sarah Betancourt for the Globe’s Green Blog. Here are edited answers.
Green Blog: What actions have been taken by 350.org to halt the approval of the Keystone Pipeline (The controversial pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. that President Obama is scheduled to rule on.)
Bill McKibben: The Obama administration is back considering all of this. The media has said that the administration has made implicit promises that they would pass the Keystone Pipeline. We don’t know if that’s true. We’re going to have our road show early in Washington on Sunday (November 18th), at 1p.m., so we can join a whole lot of other people for a big march to the White House.
GB: How do you think the pipeline decision will play out?
BM: It’s clear that this is going to be the purest test of President Obama that we’re going to have. On one hand he wants to stop the rise of the oceans, but on the other hand, he spent the summer boasting about wrapping the country in pipelines.
Naomi Klein: The pipeline was only assessed for the environmental impact of the territory it crosses. The Obama administration needs to take responsibility for the carbon that would be expelled (from the production of oil that will be traveling along) from the Keystone pipeline.
GB: Why is it so important to you to stop the pipeline from being built?
BM: (The Alberta tar sands is the) second biggest pool of carbon on Earth. It would be unbelievably foolish to tap more heavily into it. The International Energy Agency released a report last week that vindicates our math and the crazy thing is fossil fuel companies have not pushed back or claimed it to be untrue. We need to leave 80% of the fossil fuels currently available in the ground.
GB: What would you like to see happen as a result of the Do the Math Tour?
NK: One of our goals is divestment of funds, like what occurred on college campuses during the apartheid. We want people who take money from fossil fuels to have to justify themselves.
GB: What has the response been from the public on your tour?
BM: In Portland, Maine, the President of Unity College told the crowd that the college’s trustees had voted to divest all funds from fossil fuels. I don’t think they’ll be the last college do to that. In Seattle, the mayor told us that he was going to look at the books and see how they could divest fossil fuel stock and funds. We also have a show tomorrow in New York City. It’s going to be pretty emotional, with Hurricane Sandy just having happened.
About the green blog
Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
Doug Struck covers environmental issues from Boston.
Glenn Yoder produces Boston.com's Lifestyle pages.
Eric Bauer is site architect of Boston.com.
Bennie DiNardo is the Boston Globe's deputy managing editor/multimedia.
Dara Olmsted is a local sustainability professional focusing on green living.